Reality TV: What it is, who watches it and why it exists
by Keith McDuffee, posted Jul 9th 2008 1:01PM
Since the early days of TV Squad, we've covered realty programming in some capacity; we published news, episode reviews and commentary on whatever had viewers talking. I think back then we were covering Survivor, American Idol and perhaps The Amazing Race. We had a decent balance of reality and non-reality posts, and everyone seemed happy.
As the years went on, that balance shifted. The reality shows we were covering were only increasing in popularity, and more shows came in to ride the wave. As we sat back and watched some of the newer shows break onto the scene with little posting from us, the readers demanded our take. The monstrosity of Reality TV was something we couldn't ignore, so we provided.
Then we reached the breaking point.
Early this year, the site mail started piling up with complaints that our coverage of reality TV was too extensive. For every non-reality post we had, there were three reality posts. American Idol this, Big Brother that. Despite the popularity of these shows -- and the demand from fans of them that we cover them more -- our non-reality readers demanded a change. There was no denying to anyone that these shows were popular and, with the events surrounding the WGA Strike, it was no mystery why they were even more prevalent than before. But the readers wanted a change.
In listening to the readers, we created a "reality-free" page/feed for those not interested in reading anything having to do with reality TV. In fact, this post (and those listed below) won't appear to them unless they venture to our main page. But what interested the TV Squad team, in all of this hullabaloo, was why do people hate reality TV so much?
In exploring that question, we decided to put together an extensive study into what defines "reality" television -- not just for the USA, but around the globe. What made reality television what it is today? What does the world watch for reality TV? Who watches reality TV and why?
(Make sure you also check out AOL Television's Reality TV Awards and vote for your favorite (and least favorite) shows and "celebrities" from reality shows.)
WHO WATCHES REALITY TV AND WHY?